Associate Editor, Shannon Taylor
No one ever talks about the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that can result in a long-custody battle — this is my story of a custody battle I fought with my now ex-husband from 2007-2020.
I knew I shouldn’t get on Topix, but it was so hard not to because I knew that my husband’s ex was going to post something, especially so close to the next court date. My husband and I had been fighting for custody of his son for over 10 years by then, and the case was hopefully, and finally, coming to an end.
I knew that she liked getting under my skin by posting on Topix, but sometimes she would make mistakes and reveal her next move. In a way, it was like playing chess with a handicapped pigeon. It was a gamble that I was willing to take.
I logged on and went to the South Fulton forum where she posted and looked for the thread titled “Court Soon.” Topix was “supposed” to be a news site, but what it really was, was a gossip site. She had been using it since my husband and I got together 11 years prior to make threats. Sure enough, her username and a new comment popped up:
I sure hope nothing bad happens to your daughter if you get custody of my son. If I lose my child, you will lose yours too.
My heart immediately started racing. When she posted threats on Topix, she usually followed through with them. The first time she posted a threat, the police were at our door at 1 a.m. saying that they received a report that we were cooking meth. She had set up, in a neat little row behind the garage, boxes of cold pills, jars, Dran-o, and batteries. Long story short, the police knew it was a set-up. The phone number that called it in was her boyfriend’s number. The police couldn’t even be bothered to fingerprint the evidence or anything.
The second time she posted a threat, our tires were slashed as a result, and the third time she broke into our house and stole a bunch of court papers. Again, the police did nothing, as nothing could be proven, and Topix allowed users to remain anonymous. Unless a horrible crime had been committed, no Judge was going to subpoena Topix because it just cost too much money. I knew, when I read her new comment, that even though it was a worse threat than her previous ones, that history proved she followed through. My anxiety started to take over.
I ordered Arlo security cameras for the front and back yards. They had night vision, connected to our smartphones so we could watch in real-time, and the video was high quality, even in night-vision mode. I felt a little better, but the bigger problem was we lived 30 minutes away from the nearest town and, knowing from past experiences how long it would take the police to get here, even a camera didn’t make me feel too safe. In the meantime, I kept logging into Topix. The next message read:
It sure would be sad if someone grabbed her at the bus stop. Ran her over, maybe. Hahaha
My first thought was to call the police. But what could they do? It was, after all, anonymous. I was terrified and furious at the same time, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Court was the following day.
In court, we waited while the Judge went over the evidence regarding our petition. In the past, he could barely be bothered to stay awake during court proceedings and almost always favored her side due to her being a “mother.” Surprisingly, this time he actually took into consideration the surmountable evidence we had against her.
She had 17 arrests for meth possession, sale, and manufacturing. She had been evicted from three homes in the past year and was living with her kids in one of them with no water and no electricity for the last month. She lived on the side of the road in a tent with the kids, then in her boyfriend’s truck, and then in and out of motels.
Also, she had switched the child’s school three times within a year, and he was failing 5th grade and truant. The child’s teachers testified that for a month straight he had shown up to school in the same outfit and hadn’t had a bath.
Finally, she was taking the child with her to dumpster-dive for things to sell online for money, as well as her falsified report that the child’s father was physically and sexually abusing him.
We were awarded temporary custody until the child was able to complete enough counseling for a final court hearing and his counselor could be present. This was a huge victory, so why didn’t it feel that way? In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think about her threats. They weighed on me heavily. When I logged on to Topix later that evening I saw a new message that simply read:
Wait for it! You took what was mine and now I’m taking yours. This isn’t over b****! Enjoy!
I started contemplating whether to tell my husband about the comments, but I thought he would just blow them off and tell me that if I didn’t get on there to start with, that I wouldn’t even know. He’d tell me that she was just trying to mess with me and not to give her the time of day. All really good advice. I should’ve listened to it, but I just couldn’t.
I woke up later that night because I heard something in the kitchen. I listened quietly for it, thinking it might be our cat, Evee.
Footsteps — much larger than a cat.
No. It was definitely someone walking in the kitchen. The side door opened and closed, and I knew that someone had just walked outside.
I rolled over quietly so I could nudge my husband without waking my daughter, who was sleeping between us, because at eight years old she still slept in our bed … it was a work in progress getting her to sleep in her own. I felt something wet on my arm when I turned over, but I couldn’t see what it was. I leaned over to my left to turn on my bedside lamp, and hoped it wouldn’t wake my daughter up, and when I did, I saw the blood on my arm.
Read Part II in next week’s edition.